There are four common pastor candidate mistakes. But you can avoid these mistakes and be prepared for that next pastor search team.
By Mark Dance
There is rarely a more vulnerable time in the life and ministry of pastors than when they’re being considered for a church position. Although mistakes in ministry are a given, some are more costly and avoidable than others. Here are four common pastor candidate mistakes to avoid so you can be prepared for that next pastor search team. This list is not exhaustive, but hopefully it will be helpful.
1. Not doing enough homework
A casual stroll through a church’s website is sufficient if you’re just a name on a list or a resume in a pile. However, if they’re serious enough to call you, you need to put your FBI hat on.
So much time, energy, and frustration can be avoided if you take the time to engage the links on their site and read all the way through. When a church called me a few years ago, I read their faith statement on the “Our Beliefs” page of their website. Their statement of beliefs did not match my own personal beliefs. So why would I continue that conversation? Their faith statement didn’t make them a bad church; it just made them a bad fit for me.A church's statement of beliefs may not necessarily make them a bad church, but it may make them a bad fit for you. Click To Tweet
Some of you will want to involve your spouse in this “investigation” because of their discernment, computer skills, or both. If the church is serious enough to meet with you in person or even over a Zoom call, ask them to send you a copy of their church constitution and bylaws if they are not available online. You deserve to know how they view your prospective role, as well as the roles of other leaders. The other important document you need to get is their budget, which leads to the second most common mistake.
2. Not negotiating salary and benefits
The motivation behind this mistake is often a fear of sounding greedy and/or scaring the search team off. If fear is a factor in this process, it needs to be addressed internally before you say “yes” to any ministry position.
“Am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ,” (Galatians 1:10b, CSB).
“The fear of mankind is a snare, but the one who trusts in the Lord is protected,” (Proverbs 29:25, CSB).
Guidestone and Lifeway partner every other year to give you the latest benchmarks on salary and compensation, as well as other helpful information for both candidates and committees. The latest report revealed pastors’ salaries are not keeping pace with inflation.
Why do pastor search teams wait until the last possible minute to share candidate salary information? Frankly, I have no idea. There is no way that is how they operate personally outside the church, so this mystery will likely only be solved in heaven.
3. Not reaching out to former pastors/staff
Perhaps this should wait until after you’ve met with the search team in person, but not too much longer. I would encourage you to also reach out to a leader of a network, convention, or association that the church is involved with.Save your spouse, family, and church the trouble of a mismatch by interviewing people outside of the search team. — @markdance Click To Tweet
These may be awkward conversations, but I assure you it doesn’t remotely compare to the painful awkwardness of having to back out of the search process later, or worse, leave the church prematurely. Save your spouse, family, and church the trouble of a mismatch by interviewing people outside of the search team. The primary reveal is whether that team is telling you the whole story about their church. Sometimes they’ll inadvertently misrepresent the church by painting an unrealistic, aspirational picture of it.
4. Not asking hard enough questions
Politeness on the front end can sometimes lead to disappointment and disillusionment on the back end. Shooting straight doesn’t have to be rude, so when you get to a face-to-face level in this conversation, ask for clarity on these important issues:
- Family expectations
A final word of encouragement: You are interviewing them as they are interviewing you. As you walk the tight line of fearlessness and patience, know our sovereign Savior is in charge of the whole process. And at the end of the day, we all should be praying, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done,” (Matthew 6:10a, CSB).